Madison may be a college town, but it has lots to offer to seniors too, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender elders. California’s Milken Institute recently named Madison the country’s Best City for Successful Aging. And as the progressive capital city of a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, Madison has earned a spot on “The Advocate’s” Gayest Cities in America.
Support services from OutReach and the LGBT Senior Alliance
OutReach is Madison’s LGBT community center, with a vast range of well-established services for people of all ages as well as options tailored to seniors. Senior programming is offered through the LGBT Senior Alliance, which is a partnership between OutReach and the Madison Senior Center. Among the programs offered by the alliance and OutReach are
- religion and spirituality discussion groups
- women’s and men’s social groups
- support groups for transgender people and their partners
- LGBT veterans support groups and
- Social group meetings for LGBT people with disabilities
OutReach also maintains a directory and a referral service to help find LGBT-friendly doctors, lawyers, financial planners, and other service professionals.
Fun, fitness, and friends
Madison has plenty of LGBT-focused senior events going on year-round. The Gay and Gray discussion group meets twice a month over coffee for social time and current events talk. Musicians of all skill levels are welcome to play along in the LGBT Seniors’ twice-monthly folk music jam sessions. And there are always holiday parties, seasonal dinner events, weekly dance classes, and movie matinee days hosted by the senior center and by OutReach. Madison’s annual Pride Parade is coordinated by OutReach, as well.
For seniors who want to contribute to the community, both OutReach and the LGBT Senior Alliance have volunteer opportunities, like peer counseling, event planning and setup, and office support.
Special assistance with housing and caregiving issues
The one thing that Madison doesn’t seem to have is a traditionally gay neighborhood. The city’s LGBT population is interwoven throughout the city. But there are services to help LGBT seniors with aging in place and with finding appropriate assisted living care.
Seniors and other community members who need respite care can contact OutReach’s Share the Care program. Share the Care pairs a volunteer with the person who needs help, usually after surgery or during illness, and helps family and friends to coordinate meals, errands, housekeeping, and other tasks. This approach is designed to prevent caregiver burnout and to ensure that the person who needs assistance stays in control of his or her care.
The LGBT Senior Advocate program at OutReach provides cultural sensitivity training to local Madison assisted living communities, hospitals, and other agencies that work with seniors. The program helps care providers in the Madison area to create a welcoming, respectful, and aware environment for the LGBT seniors they serve. The advocate program also makes senior service referrals and is working on the issue of senior homelessness.
More things to do in Madison
Besides a supportive community, Madison offers plenty of arts, culture, and outdoor activities. Popular attractions include the feminist independent bookstore A Room of One’s Own, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens on the north shore of Lake Monona, and the Saturday morning Madison Farmer’s Market on Capitol Square from April to November.
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